Kale Cassidy

Baker’s Kale Cassidy, left, passes La Grande’s Bennett Welch in the 1,500-meter race at the district meet in May 2019. The pair also dueled in the 3,000 at the Class 4A meet. Cassidy won the race and broke a 37-year-old Baker High School record.

Running isn’t just a staple in everyday life for Baker senior Kale Cassidy.

For the past three and a half years, Cassidy has competed in cross-country and track for the Bulldogs, using the competition as motivation.

“Running has just become a lifestyle, it has become a way for me to get out and challenge myself to prove to myself that I am stronger than I think I am,” said Cassidy, 17.

Like other Baker student-athletes, Cassidy’s spring schedule was interrupted by the closure of schools, and all spring sports, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Cassidy had a special incentive — he was preparing to defend his Class 4A state title in the 3,000-meter race. Cassidy broke a 37-year-old school record with a time of 8:51.32.

“It’s been hard to stay motivated because there is not much more that we can do, without that competition it’s not easy to stay running,” Cassidy said this week.

But although he has competed in his final race as a Bulldog, his athletic career is not over.

Cassidy will compete in cross-country and track at the Colorado School of Mines.

He said he’s eager to confront new challenges.

“I am excited of having all those experiences again of training hard and then having a big payoff and being a part of that top group because of the work and time I put in,” Cassidy said.

Although he’s disappointed that he won’t have a chance to be a two-time state champion, he is satisfied with what he’s accomplished.

“I’ve already achieved that, and I know what I can do,” Cassidy said. “That’s what is important. It’s not like I need to prove to other people I can do this thing, I already know I can.”

The much more difficult part of this unexpected situation, he said, is that he won’t get to spend time with his teammates and friends for one last season.

“It’s upsetting I won’t be able to run with my Baker team ever again — being a part of the team has had an amazing impact on my life,” Cassidy said.

He began running for the Bulldogs moments after he started high school. Going into his sophomore year, Cassidy began to realize his potential in running. He proceeded to begin more training during the winter and summer months.

“It just has to be done to perform at that level, just running the hours where nobody really is watching,” Cassidy said.

As he started his junior year, Baker cross-country and track coach, Suzy Cole, saw a newfound determination in Cassidy as he posted fast times in races.

“Kale has been dialed in for quite some time,” Cole said.

Cassidy feels fortunate for the bonds that he built with not only his teammates but with his opponents. He is quick to credit his success from last season to many teammates as well as La Grande runner Bennett Welch, who graduated in 2019.

“Working with him and some of the other competition in our league we were able to just figure out how to pace ourselves for each lap and just kind of strategize what we needed to be doing from race-to-race,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy’s 2019 track season culminated at the state meet May 17 at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham. Clicking on all cylinders, Cassidy and Welch led the entire pack during the 3,000-meter race.

“We just worked together in that race and running side by side,” Cassidy said. “Knowing each other we could just know what each person was going to do, and we used that to our advantage.”

Cassidy and Welch had finished one-two in both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races at the district meet, with Cassidy winning the former race and Welch the latter.

In the state final at Gresham, Cassidy pulled away from his rival and friend.

“You have to put yourself in the position that you give yourself the opportunity to have the perfect day, and Kale has been doing that,” Cole said.

Cassidy continued his strong performances as a senior during the cross-country season in the fall of 2019. He won the district title for the third straight year, and placed second at the state meet.

This winter he had been training with teammate Jake Cuzick in preparation for a track season that never got out of the starting blocks.

“We were doing up to 55-mile weeks,” Cassidy said.

Then the coronavirus arrived.

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